A true Christmas miracle

Christmas has passed, but this Christmas was a special one because, amid wars and conflict around the world, a true Christmas miracle happened.

Christmas eve 2023, the Animal Heroes phone rings. On the other side of the line Diana Babisch from Bethlehem Shelter is calling from Bethlehem, she is in tears. All she manages to say is “They are thinking of euthanising Smarty”… who is Smarty?

Smarty is a one-year-old pup, rescued by Diana herself when he was only 7 weeks old. She found him on his own, hungry and weak between rubbish on a street in Bethlehem. She took him to her home and after raising and fostering Smarty in her own house, a few weeks before Christmas Diana finally found a home for Smarty in Canada. Or at least, that’s what she thought.

Despite the difficulties of traveling due to the war, she managed to organise the impossible and managed to put Smarty on a flight to New York. From there he was driven by car to Canada (a 9-hour drive) by a lovely lady called Marie who had also adopted a dog from Diana and who brought Smarty to meet with his new foster family in Quebec.

Sadly things didn’t go as expected and 4 days later, the family said that Smarty had snapped them. As a result, they didn’t want Smarty anymore and planned to bring him to a Canadian shelter where they were told that Smarty was likely to be euthanised. For Diana this was one thing too many for 2023. She loves Smarty and risked her life for him in this terrible year.

There is a saying “it takes a village to raise a child”, but sometimes “it takes a group of female pilots to save a dog”.

Animal Heroes team went into action on that same Christmas eve. While Esther Kef got in contact and persuaded the family not to bring Smarty to this shelter that considered euthanising him, the Logistics Manager and airline Captain Eleonora Orlandi organised a rescue mission for Smarty.

On the 2nd of January 2024 Smarty was removed from this family and taken across the border into the US by Marie, the same lady who has also adopted a dog from Diana’s shelter. Our US Animal Heroes volunteer and airline Captain Jen Rafferty emptied her agenda and drove 10 hours to pick up Smarty and brought her to meet Moira, the american aunt of a third woman airline pilot from South Africa who lives in Abu Dhabi. After a very long day, Smarty arrived at the Sweet Life Animal Rescue in New York State, a sanctuary that is founded by our friend Judith Woerler, woman airline Captain number 4!

Apart from thanking all the women involved in saving Smarty’s life, we are writing this story with an important message to anyone who is considering buying or adopting a dog, or any other animal for that matter.

Taking a dog or any other pet is a big responsibility and requires patience and dedication. Even with the best intentions, Smarty traveled half of the planet and found himself in a new house, with people and animals he had never seen in his life. He is only a puppy and was not given any chance to settle in and was perceived to be aggressive, when in fact all he wanted was to play.

A dog is not a package you buy on Amazon that you just send back if it doesn’t meet your standards or suddenly proves to be a little more challenging than expected. If you are not willing to be patient, to learn about your dog’s behaviour, or to invest in dog training, then the best way to help a dog or other pet is to adopt at a distance, offering financial support for an animal or an animal shelter of your choice.

Judith Woerler from the Sweet Life Animal Rescue says it is important to bear in mind the 3-3-3 rule when adopting a dog. 3 days to decompress, 3 weeks to learn the new routine, and 3 months to feel at home and to show his or her true character. So if you adopt, make sure to give your dog a chance by giving him or her space, and time. It is an amazing and rewarding journey together, but it is not always an easy or a very quick one!

As for Smarty, he has been with Judith for 10 days now and he is an incredibly sweet and friendly dog that does not show any signs of aggression. He is a very young dog and as such has a lot of energy and needs to go on walks and play. Today Smarty saw snow for the first time and thanks to Judith he can stay in this wonderful place until a caring family comes along that will offer him the permanent loving home he deserves.

The miracle was complete when Judith opened Smarty’s passport upon arrival and realised that exactly that day it happened to be Smarty’s first birthday!

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